HANSON — Town Administrator Ron San Angelo tendered his resignation, effective Aug. 14, to the Board of Selectmen during an executive session in the Tuesday, June 23 meeting.
San Angelo signed a contract with the town of Southbridge Monday, June 22 to become that community’s town manager, effective Aug. 17.
“The Hanson Board of Selectmen and Mr. San Angelo have reached a written agreement to resolve any and all matters covered by his employment contract with the town,” Selectmen Chairman Bruce Young read from a joint statement agreed to by selectmen and San Angelo. “The board thanks Mr. San Angelo for his service to the town and wishes him well in his new position for the town of Southbridge.”
San Angelo thanked the board and citizens of Hanson for the opportunity to serve as town administrator.
“It’s all set and the contract’s been signed and agreed to,” he said of the Southbridge job. “It’s just a matter of transitioning from here, working with them to help them transition out and doing some part-time work with Southbridge ahead of that Aug. 17 date.”
The special meeting had been called to discuss results of a citizens’ survey regarding potential re-use of the former Plymouth County Hospital site.
Before going into executive session to continue discussions on San Angelo’s contract status — as well as negotiations with Fire and Highway department unions and an Open Meeting Law complaint — Young asked for a report from Executive Assistant Meredith Marini on the potential need for a search committee and interim town administrator position.
“I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time on this, but the way things are breaking at the current time we may be in need of going to a search committee and interim town administrator,” Young said.
Marini has spoken with representatives of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Collins Center for Public Management at UMass, Boston, Municipal Resources Inc., and Massachusetts Municipal Consulting for their guidance on the situation.
The MMA maintains a list of interim town administrators, which they can provide. The list represents retired town administrator who provide their services when a community requires an interim official, according to Marini.
“They all gave me pretty much the same story,” she said. “They will come in, meet with the selectmen, do a full file of the community, see what the selectmen are looking for, then they go out and do the recruitment, advertise — they know all the people in the business — and they go through the applications.”
The firms pare down the list and all mentioned a screening committee would be a good idea to determine a good fit as interim town administrator.
Consulting firms would cost the town from $8,500, which would cover only recruitment to $17,000 to include all background and credit checks needed. The Collins Center would charge $15,000 to do the whole process.
The Open Meeting Law complaint, filed by resident Betty Dahlberg seeking information on evaluations of San Angelo and previous town administrators’ performance evaluations, was also discussed in executive session. Back in open session they voted to authorize Young to issue a letter in response to the complaint as well as the documents requested.
An agenda item dealing with San Angelo’s evaluation was stricken as “no longer necessary,” according to Young.
“It’s important to note that all parties agreed to that,” Selectman James McGahan said.
The PCH discussion was kicked off by Bruce Hughes of the Old Colony Planning Council, as he reviewed the 175 responses to the survey of residents on re-use preferences.
“We wanted to hear the views of the public,” San Angelo said. “we wanted that to be included in the final report.”
The survey showed most respondents preferred the site be used for some form of passive recreation, community center, elder housing or recreation-based commercial use.
Selectmen tended to fall in that range, as well.
Selectman Don Howard urged a recreation facility similar to the one on King Street in Hanover. McGahan agreed, adding that a water park could be a viable commercial venture. He and Young also stressed that some single-family homes, possibly geared toward 55-plus buyers could bolster the tax base and help fund PCH demolition.
“The PCH has been sitting there since 1999, nothing’s been done with it and the biggest problem we have up there is the hospital — demolish it and get rid of it,” Howard said.
Howard suggested that, as the Town Hall renovation bond comes off the tax rolls, the taxpayers might consider continuing a bond of equal value for 15 years or so to fund a tear-down of the former hospital building. San Angelo said a bond for demolition alone could only extend for five years, but noted he and Howard had talked with the town accountant the idea of borrowing $2.5 million over 15 years to raze the building and put $1 million toward developing a park, which lowers the debt payments.
Former Selectman David Soper favors offering a tax credit to a developer in exchange for such a private business to foot the bill for razing the old hospital. He suggested active adult housing, coupled with low-impact commercial development such as IT or a call center could also provide a tax return for the town.
“I’m not looking to change the character up there,” he said. “I don’t think a retail store would be anywhere near feasible up there — it’s off the beaten path.”
Community Preservation funds could be used for demolition if development included open space or affordable housing on the site, according to CPC Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett.
Theresa Santalucia, speaking for Green Hanson, which favors open space and operates a community garden at the site, and the Housing Authority, said the property is an asset to the community.
She stressed the need for affordable housing in town with waiting lists of 83 applicants for the 68 units at Meetinghouse Lane and 27 families waiting for space in the six units at the L.Z. Thomas Building.
“Nothing can be done about it before we have a Town Meeting,” Howard and the rest of the board agreed.
“I’d like to see three or four non-binding referendum questions on a ballot,” Young said. “Let the people decide.”